James Eades of Augusta, Georgia was driving down a highway with a friend when they approached what they thought was an accident scene. Not wanting to be detained in traffic for an indefinite period of time, Mr. Eades turned around to go a different way.
He didn’t realize that what he did in turning around was wrong, because as it turned out, he wasn’t avoiding a traffic accident; he was evading an Operation Thunder police checkpoint.
When police see that someone is turning around like that to avoid their checkpoint, they immediately assume he must be guilty of something. So when they saw Mr. Eades make a U-turn, they went after him and pulled him over.
Mr. Eades complied and pulled over to the side. He rolled his window down about halfway, but when the officer approached his vehicle, he instructed Eades to roll the window down all the way. Mr. Eades told the officer that he was concerned for his safety and only wanted it down halfway. (Or was it up halfway?)
The officer told the man that because he wouldn’t roll his window all the way down, he was obstructing his investigation. The man didn’t comply and was arrested and charged with obstruction.
So what “investigation” was this officer conducting? Did he suspect Mr. Eades of committing a crime? Based on what probable cause? Oh, because he made a U-turn to avoid what he thought was an accident? Even if he knew it was a checkpoint, is it really committing a crime to turn around to avoid it?
Come to think of it, why were any of the people being “investigated” at this checkpoint? Had they done anything at all to make the police suspect they were doing something illegal?
What’s illegal are these checkpoints. These officers swore an oath to the Constitution, and that includes the 4th Amendment. That is supposed to protect drivers from unreasonable searches and seizures, and warrants for searches and seizures aren’t even supposed to be issued except without probable cause. If they want to search someone or someone’s car, they first have to have probable cause to do so and then obtain a search warrant “particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
Anything that police confiscate as “evidence” during these checkpoints should be thrown out in court as inadmissible since it was all seized without probable cause and without warrant. (If drivers were naïve enough to consent, then that’s their problem.)
These checkpoints are all about the money. Mr. Eades gets it: “It’s obviously to cite and arrest as many people as possible, and to raise as much revenue as possible.” Operation Thunder is said to be a resounding “success.” A couple years ago, they showed how successful one of their holiday weekend checkpoints was:
“…686 traffic citations, 178 arrests including 19 felonies, 15 pounds of marijuana seized, 61 DUI arrests and the recovery of three stolen vehicles.”
Besides the sudden influx of funds for the county and city, these regular checkpoints get people used to being searched and having their possessions seized in the name of safety and protection. And to get people used to being treated like animals. Sheep on their way to the slaughter comes to mind.
The local news article that reported on this story used this incident as an opportunity to give their readers some “helpful tips” regarding police encounters:
“If you come to a road block, police say the best thing to do is to roll down your window all the way, put both of your hands on the steering wheel, and if you have to look inside of your glove box, make sure you let the officer know that before you do so. Avoiding a road block is a big no-no and if you do so, you will be pulled over.”
Yes, police do prefer to have your window all the way down so that they can stick their head in, look around and claim to “smell” something like marijuana or alcohol. Then they can get you to exit your vehicle for further arbitrary field tests in order to arrest you for DUI or use the marijuana excuse to have your car torn apart.
For that reason, many people crack their window to leave just enough room to transfer their papers back and forth and be able to hear what the officer is saying. Having your window rolled down halfway is more than enough.
We can expect to see these checkpoints more and more, especially thanks to the Boston bombing. All we need is maybe a couple more terrorist attacks, and people will be crying out for more terrorizing checkpoints to “keep us safe” from terrorists.